Written by Arun Rajagopal
When Emirates announced its non-stop service to Seattle a couple of months ago, it was a dream come true. As an self confessed ‘aviation geek’, I had always dreamt of going to Seattle, visiting Boeing and the Future of Flight Museum and meeting up with aviation enthusiasts in Puget Sound. I had also never been on an inaugural flight and experienced a water cannon salute on arrival. Thus, on the 1st of March 2012, I boarded the inaugural EK229 bound to Seattle and crossed off the above items on my bucket list.
Emirates B777-300ER A6-EGH had the unique honour to make the first commercial trip to Puget Sound, where it was born 6 months ago. Guests onboard included Emirates Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, UAE Minister of Foreign Trade Sheikha Lubna Al Qassimi, and Emirates President Tim Clark, making it a truly VVIP flight. The route launch also coincided with Emirates picking up the 1000th B777 at a fancy ceremony in Everett, so the air was heavy with excitement.
At the gate, Emirates staff handed out ceremonial branded pin badges which I proudly pinned on my jacket. I was so thrilled that I hardly slept on the 15 hour flight and the famed ICE IFE did its best to keep me entertained at 39,000 feet. Two hot meals were served, complemented by wine, Pizza and a fruit basket. The chirpy crew went around clicking Polaroid snaps of passengers and handed them out as souvenirs. The flight was full, and it was very much evident that this route would be a solid performer for Emirates. We flew over Iran and Russia, crossed the North Polar Cap, soared over British Columbia and then eventually glided into an overcast Washington.
On our approach to Sea-Tac, the Captain announced that the Governor of Washington had declared 1 March to be Emirates Day in honour of the new service. Clouds parted for some rare sunshine as EK229 touched down an hour before its scheduled arrival and was accorded a ceremonial water cannon salute by the Port of Seattle.
At the Main Terminal, I was happily welcomed by Sandy Ward, Marketing Director of Seattle’s Future of Flight Aviation Center. She took me on a drive through the city, pointing out landmarks such as Pike Place Market and the world’s first Starbucks store. After checking into the Hyatt Place Downtown, I headed out to explore the city. My first stop was the iconic Space Needle, which celebrates its 50th birthday this year. The observation deck atop the Space Needle gives you some fantastic views of the Puget Sound skyline and helps you take in the Emerald City.
The next morning, after a delish IHOP breakfast of Colorado Omelet and Hash Browns, I went on the renowned Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour. Our bus to Everett had visitors from around the world. No cameras or phones are allowed on the tour where you get to see the production lines of the 747, 777 and 787. One of my unforgettable moments was spotting the 1000th Boeing 777 earmarked for Emirates with its distinctive registration, A6-EGO. The 787 assembly line had a couple of aircraft getting primed for Qatar Airways and I am looking forward to their eventual takeover of the skies.
The factory tour was spectacular, and our guide did an excellent job explaining Boeing’s impressive heritage and the advanced technology that goes into their jets. Boeing’s Everett factory also happens to be the world’s largest building by volume, and interestingly has no air-conditioning or heating and is naturally ventilated. My next stop was the Boeing Store where I splurged on aviation souvenirs. That day, all B777 merchandise came with a 20% discount on the occasion of the Emirates delivery. I didn’t miss an opportunity to go plane spotting at the Future of Flight’s expansive observation deck where you can see Boeing aircraft undergo flight testing.
I spent my afternoon exploring Everett with fellow #avgeek Vivek Mayasandra. The cool and rainy weather was a welcome relief from the sandy climes of Dubai. We went driving by the lakeside of Mukilteo, sipped hand-crafted espresso at the laidback Voxx Coffee, and watched tugboats navigate their way through Lake Washington Ship Canal before capturing a night owl’s vision of Seattle.
On my final day in Seattle, good friend and ski instructor Greg Guenther took me on an outdoor adventure before my flight back home later in the afternoon. We drove to the famous Alpental Valley in the Snoqualmie Mountains, 80km east of Seattle. It was my first time seeing snow and we decided to celebrate the milestone by going snowshoeing. After a good hour of hiking in the snow, (where Greg kept telling me to trust the snowshoes and I did), and braving near zero temperatures, we headed back to Sea-Tac.
48 hours after touching down in Seattle, I hopped back on the Emirates B777-300ER that would ferry me back to Dubai. Still sporting a Seattle hangover, I am looking forward to return to Puget Sound and experience a Boeing delivery flight some day. Here’s hoping that the universe makes my wish come true.
#avgeek – Twitter hashtag for those with an unhealthy obsession for all things aviation.
You can follow Arun Rajagopal’s #avgeek adventures on Twitter at @arun4.